Looking back at the last year, everything seems like a blur. Starting with floods and ending with fire, Cloverdale has had a busy 2019.
From the big picture issues to the people and events that make up the city’s personality, there has been no shortage of news in Cloverdale.
Continuing our review of 2019, this week we’re reviewing the bread and butter of Cloverdale’s community — the people and small town events. We’re also going to be reviewing the past year in crime and police, as local development progress.
In 2019, the Reveille tried to amp up some of our coverage of more global issues. In the midst of our weekly coverage of Cloverdale, we put out special sections on teen vaping, Sonoma Clean Power and the health of the Sonoma County coast, all in addition to our annual reports on cannabis and harvest. The Reveille also celebrated its 140th birthday. As we begin year 141, thank you for your readership and support.
As we welcome in 2020, we’re taking time to reflect on the biggest themes and headlines of the Reveille’s 2019 news coverage.
In the beginning of January, the Reveille sat down with Deborah Curle, a Cloverdalian who hiked to the Mount Everest base camp following her 60th birthday. When speaking about the trip, Curle said that it gave her a deeper appreciation for Nepalese culture and allowed her to gain a better understanding of what Everest climbers (those who climb the whole mountain) have to go through.
A look into familial burial records started Kathleen Paini Clemence’s two-year project of trying to identify everyone buried in the Cloverdale and Mount Olive cemeteries. Clemence and her efforts were profiled in the Jan. 24 edition of the Reveille. At the time, she had a spreadsheet listing 1,883 entries of folks buried in the cemetery — she still had at least one ledger of names to sort through, however.
As January came to a close, we sat down with Cloverdale resident and newly-appointed Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick to discuss his new position, the next steps for the department and his goals during his tenure.
“I would say it’s a multi-pronged approach,” Essick said, discussing improving connections and relationships with the community, which he listed as one of his top goals as sheriff. “It’s a mixture of my availability and being out there and being involved with the different groups in our community … The other approach is community policing. It all kind of ties in together, and that is putting the same deputies on the same beat assignment or same zone assignment on a consistent basis. So that if you live in Geyserville, you can be assured that the deputy that works the day shift in Geyserville is the same deputy on a regular basis. You can get to know that deputy by name and by face. It builds accountability because that deputy is going to have to look you in the eye on a regular basis.”
Former police chief Stephen Cramer died on Feb. 7. Cramer was hired by the Cloverdale Police Department in 2005, became a sergeant in 2010 and was promoted to chief in 2015. He retired from his position in December 2018. Starting in 2011, Cramer went through multiple recurrences of squamous cell carcinoma, which manifested as throat cancer; he was declared cancer-free multiple times and went through multiple rounds of chemotherapy, as well as surgery to get a tracheoesophageal voice prosthesis. A champion of community outreach, in a December 2018 interview about his retirement, Cramer said that he would miss positively interacting with the community the most.
“In this era, where nationally law enforcement is looked upon negatively, I take pride in the reality that our officers and our department are treated with mutual respect,” he said.
On March 27, former Cloverdale fire chief Brian Elliott died. He was admitted to the hospital with flu symptoms and his condition decreased rapidly, reported Cloverdale Fire Protection District Chief Jason Jenkins. Elliott retired from the fire district in 2010 and remained an active member and leader in the community.
In April the Reveille wrote about resident Jackie Evans, who launched an effort to get comedy to Cloverdale, partnering with Jangbu “JB” Sherpa from Railroad Station restaurant to bring comedy acts to the eatery. Evans had been ruminating on the idea for awhile before connecting with Sherpa.
Cloverdale resident and then-CHS senior Eden Winniford was profiled in the Reveille for winning both Best Film at SCOE’s Five-Minute Film Festival and first place in the Congressional Art Competition. Winniford’s work digs into social issues.
“I’ve always felt like we have to be responsible members of society, whether it’s treating each other well or treating our environment well, we always have to be mindful in our actions,” she said.
Cloverdale’s new police chief was sworn in on Aug. 5. Chief Jason Ferguson was sworn in during a ceremony at the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center. Prior to taking on the role of chief in Cloverdale, Ferguson worked at the Lakeport Police Department.
In September, the Reveille profiled Cloverdale resident Cami Smook who started a dog bowl program in honor of her brother. As she walked around downtown Cloverdale in the heat of the summer, she noticed that some of the dogs being walked looked parched. So, in an effort to help give dogs easier access to water, Smook decided to talk to local businesses about putting dog bowls out in front of their stores. The bowls are all marked with a paw inside of a heart and her brother’s name, signifying that they’re part of the dog bowl program. Smook was inspired by late brother’s love of dogs to honor his memory in a way that would benefit man’s best friend.
Cloverdale resident and Mail Center, Etc. owner Laurie Kneeland was honored as Cloverdale’s 2019 Spirit of Sonoma pick. Kneeland was chosen to represent Cloverdale because of her extensive work with nonprofits, passion for the community and willingness to help out.
Cloverdale High School senior Tehya Bird made headlines in November after signing an athletic scholarship with the University of Oregon. While Bird has played numerous sports for the Eagles, she’s signed on to play softball for the Ducks.
Crime, police and everything in between
Cloverdale started 2019 with something short of a bang, when 14 sticks of dynamite were found in the walls of a home and transported to a levee in south Cloverdale. After calling the bomb squad, it was determined that the dynamite was so old that it wouldn’t detonate. Cloverdale Police Department Officer John Camara said that he estimated the sticks were from the 19th century.
On Jan. 20, the Cloverdale Police Department responded to a report of suspicious circumstances at Cloverdale Cemetery. The department had received a call reporting a suspicious circumstance and determined that, between Jan. 17 and Jan. 20, someone had disturbed one of the gravesites. The granite slab on top of the site had been broken and the marble support base of it had been cracked. On Jan. 22, the department worked with the Sons of the American Legion to repair and secure the site.
On Jan. 23, the Cloverdale Police Department and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office responded to a burglary at Shamrock Materials on Levee Road. According to the Sheriff’s Office, the suspects stole electrical wiring from a “substantial portion of the facility.” The suspects were eventually found and identified as Charles Allen Polston, 36, and John Roy Hogstett, 24, both of Lakeport. Both suspects were booked into the Sonoma County Jail for burglary, possession of stolen property and conspiracy.
On Feb. 5, a fatal collision occurred on River Road at around 12:30 a.m. A vehicle on River Road was traveling at an unsafe speed and collided with a tree. At the scene, it was determined that the male driver had sustained major injuries and the vehicle’s passenger had sustained minor scratches. Seth Lampert, 26, of Cloverdale, died at the hospital later that day.
On March 7, the Cloverdale Police Department was informed by Cloverdale High School officials of an alleged fight in a classroom. After investigating the incident, Officer Rick Rhodes “learned of a ‘fight club’- style atmosphere a teacher, Federico Vargas, created for students and hid from the administration,” stated a March 11 press release from the CPD. The release said that interviews over the course of several days made it clear to police that the teacher allowed students to fight each other and refereed the altercations. Vargas, 41, was taken into custody on March 9 and booked at the Sonoma County Jail. Vargas later posted bail. On April 25, the CUSD Board of Trustees voted to dismiss him from the district.
On March 22, the California Highway Patrol responded to a traffic collision on northbound Highway 101 at Geyserville Avenue. According to a press release from the CHP, they were notified by Geyserville Fire that the driver had died. The preliminary investigation following the accident indicated that the driver, was traveling southbound on Highway 101 when she lost control and her vehicle left the roadway. From there, it crossed the center median and entered northbound traffic, colliding with a car and pushing it into another vehicle.
On April 22, a Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputy was in for a surprise when he received a call about a prosthetic leg in a Cloverdale lumber yard. The leg belonged to skydiving amputee, and it had fallen off mid-flight. After landing, the amputee and his friends looked around but were unable to find the leg.
On April 25, District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced that a civil case against Pacific States Industries (Redwood Empire Sawmill) was resolved. The case came out of an April 10, 2013 sawmill death.
“The District Attorney’s Office conducted an investigation and discovered a culture of production over safety at the mill and that the sawmill and its two other facilities in Sonoma County did not have written procedures for employees to use to work on, unjam or clean machinery and equipment, including the bark conveyor, where (Raul) Lule died,” the DA’s statement said.
As part of the case resolution, Pacific Sales was required to implement enhanced safety processes and procedures at its three locations throughout the county.
At a meeting between the Cloverdale Police Department and various Cloverdale businesses, the CPD detailed its crime and call statistics from 2018. The statistics show a picture similar to 2017 — with the primary increase being in calls for service (+3,081), vehicle collisions (+10), misdemeanor arrests (+40), parking infractions (+62) and reports taken (+26). The statistics also outline a decrease in domestic related incidents (-23), citations issued (-192), traffic infractions (-206). Other areas that saw slight increases or decreases in amount include an increase in DUIs and vandalism, and a decrease in mental holds, reported theft and felony arrests.
The biggest outlier when it comes to increases is calls for service, which went up to 18,223 in 2018 from 15,142 in 2017. When asked about potential reasons for the over 3,000-call increase, then-Sgt. Chris Parker said that he isn’t entirely sure what caused it. However, there may be a few things, like higher staff levels and community outreach, that acted as contributors to the increase.
At the same meeting, the police department announced that it would be launching a business watch. The business watch would act in a similar way to a neighborhood watch, Parker said. The goal, he said, it to help build community between businesses and the CPD.
One of the sculptures on the Cloverdale Art Trail was damaged following the opening night of the 2019 Friday Night Live season. The sculpture, which sits on North Cloverdale Boulevard and West Second Street is comprised of a large pointed teardrop-shaped sculpture suspended in air by a hook. At about 10 p.m. on opening night of the events, a passerby noticed that the sculpture was no longer suspended in the air. Rather, it was laying on the ground. While no official cause of the sculpture wreckage was determined, the organizer of the sculpture trail spoke with someone who said that they saw three men pulling on the sculpture during Friday Night Live.
On June 20, a Cloverdale resident on West Third Street came home to find that someone had run through the stop sign on Commercial Street and into their front yard, toppling over a white picket fence and breaking down a brick patio. CPD Officer Carlos Nunez said that the driver of the vehicle wasn’t injured and that they were going “normal residential speed” at the time of the accident.
The summer brought a series of flag disruptions to Cloverdale. First, a collection of colorful fabrics that had been handing on the back arbor of Bolt Fabric + Home had been ripped down and thrown on the ground. While the collection of fabrics in colors that span the rainbow weren’t put up specifically in honor of Pride Month (which occurs every June), Bolt owner Kate Barrett said that she didn’t think the decision to tear down the pieces of fabric was random.
Also in June, one of a series of pride flags that had lined Cloverdale Boulevard in anticipation of an event hosted by the Cloverdale Performing Arts center was cut from its pole and stolen.
The last in the maimed flag series was a succession of “eXperience Cloverdale” flags being vandalized in Cloverdale’s downtown. The flags were knocked to the ground, with the bottom five inches bent at the base where the pole goes into the sidewalk. At the time of the Reveille’s reporting, 16 flags had been bent.
In July, the CPD joined numerous departments across the county in carrying Narcan, a drug that reverses the effect of opioids. All officers were trained on how to administer Narcan and at the time it was introduced, the department said that it expects to administer the medication infrequently.
At the end of July, the police department introduced the position of lieutenant and swore in former Sgt. Chris Parker to fill the role. The position was created by then-interim police chief Robert Stewart in an effort to bring the department’s staffing hierarchy up to the level of comparable departments in the area.
Cloverdale resident Kent Gladden, 60, was killed in an accident on Geysers Road over a weekend in mid-November. Gladden was travelling southbound on Geysers Road south of Preston Drive when he drove off of a right hand dirt shoulder on a sweeping left hand curve. Officers responded to a call on Nov. 17 from someone who had walked by and noticed the motorcycle down an embankment.
Toward the end of the year, the CPD began a “Lunch with a Cop” program, where some of the CPD’s officers take two kids from either Jefferson Elementary School or Washington Middle School out to lunch. The program is aimed at building community togetherness and promoting familiarity and trust between kids in the school district and local officers.
At the beginning of 2019, the city began a development discussion that threaded throughout the year — what to do with the Cherry Creek housing site. The site is leased by the city to the Cloverdale Community Outreach Committee, a transitional housing development run by Wallace House, and they asked the city to extend their lease of the Cherry Creek property (the lease was set to end Sept. 30). Extending the lease would also allow the city to award the CCOC $1.9 million in a bond balance that’s set to expire in 2020. The bond was meant specifically for providing affordable housing to the city. An outpouring of community support for the work done by Wallace House and the Cherry Creek site led the council to approve extending the city’s lease to CCOC and sole-sourcing the bond funding to allow the buildings on the property to be renovated on March 6.
In October, the Cherry Creek Village property headed to the Cloverdale Planning Commission for reviewal of the redesign of the property. The proposed rehabilitation includes a single-family residence and a studio on the property, as well as the construction of 22 multi-family residences. The design passed in the planning commission 5-0.
The Porterfield Creek Trail Open Space Preserve opened on May 11. The space includes trails that allow both hikers and bikers to explore the open space without compromising the natural beauty of the area. The property was initially purchased in 2007 by Sonoma Ag + Open Space and had been used for guided outings. Now, however, it’s open to everyone.
The Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians took the first step in trying to annex a property on the south end of town in June when the Cloverdale City Council passed a resolution allowing the group to submit a pre-zoning and annexation application to the city. The application is for two parcels, a 26.5-acre piece of land at 235 Kelly Road and a 19.5-acre parcel with no assigned address. The intent of the development project is to build housing for the tribe’s elders.
Vine Ridge Senior Living on Treadway Drive was slated to finish up construction in fall of 2019. While the project was initially slated to be complete Oct. 1, with a ribbon cutting in late October, it appears to have been delayed.
Cloverdale specializes in honing in on community events that exemplify that small-town feel that so many cities crave. From annual gatherings to inaugural marches, the city had a full roster of community events.
As is custom, Cloverdale spent the beginning of 2019 preparing for the Citrus Fair. Celebrating its 127th year, the rain was no match for the fair. The 2019 fair followed the theme “Making of America,” and sought to celebrate American innovation. Ava Smith was awarded the title of Citrus Fair Queen. At the time of her appointment, Smith was a junior at Windsor High School and was on track, cross county and swim teams. Abigail Novak was awarded runner-up and Ella Black was awarded Miss Congeniality. The title of Lily Lemon went to Nasalia Ramirez, 4, and the title of Oran Orange went to Hendrix Wilson, 4, who attended the ceremony dressed as an astronaut. The winner of the Baby Derby was Donovan Sedillo.
On Feb. 26, students at Cloverdale High School were gifted yellow daffodils as they rushed between classes. The daffodils are given out every year in memory of young people and former CHS students who lost their lives to cancer. This was the event’s 10th year. The daffodils are planted and harvested by Merle Reuser, and grown on the property of the late Margaret Kohler Adams.
Cloverdale High School held its second Food Festival on March 30. The festival, put on by CHS’ farm-to-table and businesses classes, provided real-world experience to students when it comes to running a food business, putting on events and marketing for both.
A day of service and learning was held at the Cloverdale Family Apartments on March 31 to honor Cesar Chavez. The festivities were part of a weeklong series of events that aimed to promote learning and creativity in the community.
The Cloverdale Performing Arts Center hosted Dia de los Niños on April 13, spending a day devoted to celebrating kids and childhood. The event had numerous events for children, including multiple pinatas, free food, a book giveaway and various bilingual games.
On April 20, the Cloverdale Lions Club hosted its annual Easter Egg Hunt at Jefferson Elementary School. The eggs were cleared from the field in a matter of minutes, as children ran in search of them.
The next day, on April 21, Cloverdale Indivisible hosted an Earth Day celebration. Attendees went on a hike, and then gathered at the Cloverdale Plaza for tai chi and to get information about how to tend to the Earth.
On April 27, the Kiwanis Club of Cloverdale hosted One Day for Kids in the Plaza, where they had games and bubbles for kids to play with, as well as free books for everyone to take home.
The Rotary Club of Cloverdale hosted a Cinco de Mayo celebration in the Plaza on May 4. Most of the proceeds from the event went toward CHS’ Project Grad. Ballet Folklorico performed during the celebration, followed by local band Court n’ Disaster.
The first week of May also paved the way for Cloverdale’s inaugural Spring Festival. The festival, which shared some common highlights as the city’s annual winter festival, included a marketplace of vendors and a treasure hunt.
Cloverdale High School took advantage of its Maker Space by holding its second CHS Maker Faire, where the public was invited to check out the various gadgets available for student use.
On Aug. 6, the Cloverdale Police Department hosted National Night Out in the Cloverdale Plaza. The community-oriented event was full of families and kids who came downtown to eat, play games and check out some police cars.
On Sept. 7, Cloverdale’s Car and Motorcycle Show took center stage as cars lined North Cloverdale Boulevard. The 2019 show included 188 entries.
The Cloverdale High School Environmental Club organized a local rally as part of the Global Climate Strike. On Sept. 20, CHS students gathered along North Cloverdale Boulevard during their school lunch break to voice support for climate change awareness and urge those driving by to think about climate change.
In an effort to help the community get prepared in case of an emergency, Cloverdale was home to the Northern Sonoma County Fire Preparedness Fair on Sept. 29. The fair sought to provide resources to community members, both in the form of preparedness go-bags, as well as by having local groups such as CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) and COPE (Citizens Organized to Prepare for Emergencies), as well as a handful of others, on hand to talk about their groups.
The Cloverdale Kiwanis Club hosted its annual Oktoberfest celebration in conjunction with Courtney’s Pumpkin Patch on Oct. 5. The event remained at its roots with pumpkin picking, food served by the Kiwanis, events for kids and a newly resurrected scarecrow decorating competition.
The rain was no match for Cloverdale’s staple holiday events. The Lions Club Toy Run on Dec. 1 prevailed, despite heavy rains and Santa not being able to make it; Cloverdale’s annual Winter Festival had to be moved partially inside due to the risk of attendees getting waterlogged; and while last year’s Wreaths Across America ceremony was rained out, 2019’s happened to hit a break in the rain, allowing community members to head out to the Cloverdale Cemetery and place wreaths on deceased veterans and first responders.